Climate talks in Cancun enter final, high-level stage

16:07, December 09, 2010      

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A United Nations high-level Climate Change Conference that opened in Cancun, Mexico on Tuesday, December 7 marked its entry into the phase of substantial negotiations. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and other heads of state and government leaders attended the opening ceremony.

In his address at the conference, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for governments to take a rational, flexible and comprising approach in the spirit of promoting the outcome of the Cancun meeting, saying that parties must take actions to break the status quo and move the Cancun ministerial conference forward. He appealed for pragmatism as nations broker new climate deals, and said that "I urge you, all parties, to make concrete here a balanced packet of agreements that will allow to advance. Progress at this type of meeting can only be achieved by operating successfully within a complex intercultural dialogue."

Meanwhile, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, citing the Chinese proverb "a thousand miles begins with one step," appealed for the parties to make full use of the remaining time to press ahead with negotiations and reach as soon as possible a "balanced package agreement".

According to the agenda, more than 20 heads of state and representatives of signatory parties would discuss climate change issues in the next two days. Since his arrival in Cancun Sunday, Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese government delegation and China's top climate negotiator, said that he had partaken in eight rounds of high-level talks apart from attending 10 "non-stop" sessions at the Cancun conference. So, it is obvious that the negotiations have entered the phase of intensive consultation at the substantive level.

As the meeting nears a close, what is the most difficult is an absence of an ice-breaking sign for the mid-term quantified emission reduction. As president of the 16th UN climate Change Conference in Cancun (UNFCCC), Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Cantellano said that while not much has been accomplished in the past week, the most difficult job is "to bridge the divide of opinion about the second commitment period, ... a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and improved mitigation."

On Tuesday, December 7, the representative of Yemen, Abdullah al-Assad, reiterated the developing countries' adherence to the "UNFCCC", the "Tokyo Protocol" and the "Bali roadmap" and, on behalf of the "Group of 77" and China, he prompted the developed nations to establish their second phase reduction commitment target before the year 2012.

In this negotiation, the developed nations are likely to hold a negative, passive attitude out of their own "considerations". The "Umbrella" Group, or a loose coalition of non-European Union developed countries represented by the United States, are seeking to overturn this legal framework instead of honoring their commitments. And Japan, too, publicly vowed to "depose" this agreement due to an intense pressure from nine energy-intensive industries at home.

The European Union, however, appealed for all parties to continue to commit to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol but it had to be a balanced deal, EU officials said. Europe's greenhouse gas emissions only accounted for 12 percent of the global total, so it was seeking a balanced deal in UN climate change negotiations, Peter Wittock and Artur Runge-Metzger told a press conference. EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard reiterated the EU's readiness to make the second phase emission reduction commitment as she cited climate change as one of the biggest challenges of this century. "We cannot leave Cancun empty-handed," she said in the news conference.

One of the key difficulties at the COP-16 is to agree on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, which commits signatories to cutting emissions by 5 percent from their 1990 levels by 2012.

Christiana Figurieres, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, Tuesday called for all signatories to reach concrete agreements to deal with climate change via reconciliation. In a ceremony that formerly opened the plenary of the 16th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP16), Figurieres asked those present to seek the "common ground" and unity. "The only way to reach this goal is reconciling everyone -- that is our task here -- above all the elements that remain to be resolved from the Bali Roadmap," she said.

Moreover, the representative of the "Umbrella" Group also voiced support in capital, technology and forest conservation to reach concrete results at the Cancun meeting.

AOSIS, Africa and the 7 least developed countries (LDCs) have issued a statement calling for a new climate fund and the institution of an ad hoc committee to coordinate and help developing countries enhance their capacity to address climate change but developing countries are still worried about the financial commitments of developed nations, which have "much promise but little performance". Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said with worries that only less than 2 percent of the current 30 billion US dollars quick start-up capital has been implemented, and so he urged all parties to solve this issue as soon as possible in the next two days.

Public opinions acknowledged nevertheless that numerous disputes and conflicts in Cancun, all entangled with one another, are unlikely to be straightened out within the next two says. In this regard, China's top climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua admonish all parties at a Monday press conference to take their mutual trust, compromising and flexible attitude to narrow their differences and increase their consensuses. "At the end, there will maybe not a satisfactory deal for everyone but an acceptable one," Xie said, and this is what is termed a "win-win" outcome.

By People's Daily Online and its author is PD resident reporter in Mexico Zou Zhipeng


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